Industry & Product News
Dirac Live Active Room Treatment Defies Sound Boundaries
Swedish digital audio pioneer Dirac announced the debut of Dirac Live Active Room Treatment, the latest in its family of award-winning Dirac Live features designed to address bass resonance and room decay time to produce a cleaner, tighter bass experience than ever before. This latest Dirac Live feature processes home theater audio as a unified system, not individual speakers. Dirac Live Active Room Treatment will debut in all StormAudio AVRs through a Spring 2023 firmware update. Read More
New Sennheiser Conversation Clear Plus Earbuds Deliver Speech Enhancement Technology
With most consumer audio companies looking for the best way to address the over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aid market, Sennheiser Hearing, the consumer division of Sonova, introduced the new Sennheiser Conversation Clear Plus at CES 2023. Leveraging the know-how of a leading audiology company, the new Sennheiser consumer-friendly design is presented as a speech enhancement solution, allowing conversations in noisy environments. Read More
Audioscenic Partners with Razer and THX to Launch Desktop Soundbar with 3D Beamforming Technology and Head-Tracking AI
Audioscenic will finally see its 3D audio beamforming technology reach consumers in a product from Razer, one of the world’s leading lifestyle brands for gamers. The Razer Leviathan V2 Pro, is the world’s first desktop soundbar with THX Spatial Audio combined with Audioscenic unique technology that allows a truly personalized, immersive listening experience without the need for headphones. Read More
Radian Audio Introduces LM10n Wide Band Planar Ribbon Transducer at CES 2023
Radian Audio Engineering is presenting its latest range of products for the first time at CES 2023, following an intense research and development effort. The company's extended Planar Ribbon range, now offers improved specifications for home audio, home cinema, and high end applications. Together with the much improved new-generation Planar Ribbon series, Radian also introduced the largest driver in the family, the wide band LM10n. Read More
Wireless Power Consortium Introduces New Qi2 Standard for Wireless Charging and Universal Compatibility
At CES 2023, the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) is promoting the new wireless charging standard to unify the industry under one global standard and provide enhanced convenience and efficiency for mobile devices and wearables. As a key contributing member of the Wireless Power Consortium, Apple provided the basis for the new Qi2 standard building on its MagSafe technology. Apple and other WPC members developed the new Magnetic Power Profile, which is at the core of Qi2. Read More
Nordic Semiconductor Selects Packetcraft Controller Software Delivering Advanced Bluetooth LE Audio Capability
Packetcraft, a leading provider of Bluetooth embedded stacks and software solutions with more than 100 million enabled devices, announced its Bluetooth Qualified LE Controller is shipping with Nordic Semiconductor’s flagship nRF5340 dual-core Bluetooth 5.3 SoC enabling LE Audio in commercial products. At CES 2023, Packetcraft is already showcasing Bluetooth LE Audio and Auracast broadcast audio applications using Nordic’s nRF5340 SoC, including from Sonical, EMSi, and Fanstel. Read More
Servobass Demonstrates Motion Feedback Desktop Subwoofers and Other MFB Solutions at CES 2023
Servobass is the trade name for the products and technology designed by Zami Schwartzman, and which will be making its debut at CES 2023. The company will demonstrate its Motion Feedback Desktop Subwoofers, a new shallow "under the seat" MFB car subwoofer, and its ZRS-1 Class-D plate amplifier, and is open to licensing opportunities. Servobass will be in the ALTI Association Hospitality Suite at CES 2023, Lido 3101B - Level 3 of the Venetian Expo and Convention Center, and in the Menlo Scientific suite. Read More
Brane Audio Debuts Brane X Portable Speaker with Built-In Subwoofer
Brane Audio, an audio company from Austin, Texas, is introducing a new portable speaker at CES 2023, which the company says is able to generate expanded low-frequency response. The Brane X is the first speaker in its class to include a subwoofer, producing much more bass than comparable portable speakers thanks to the company's new Repel-Attract Driver (R.A.D.) that uses a novel "magnetic negative spring" supported by an axial magnetic bearing system. Brane Audio is offering private demos of its new speaker during CES. Read More
Guest Editorial
Andrew Bellavia
Hearables in 2023
Comfort Must Come First
Predicting what trends we’ll see in hearables in 2023 just prior to attending CES seems like a fool’s errand. Even so, it is becoming clear what issues must be addressed in the year ahead to unlock their full potential.

Much has been written about the future potential of hearables (including by me) in markets beyond audio consumption such as health monitoring and well-being, audio augmented reality, mobile voice assistants, and especially hearing augmentation and hearing loss mitigation with the release of the over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aid rule in the United States. All of these are predicated on devices that can be comfortably worn for long stretches of the day in a form factor that people are willing to wear in social settings. Without that foundation, these interesting and useful applications will not achieve mass-adoption.

One of the biggest issues is comfort. At base level, this means devices that do not cause pain or irritation. In the 2022 Qualcomm State of Sound Report, comfort for TWS hearables moved to the number two purchase driver, up from number four the previous year. Though consumer experience regarding comfort was not directly measured in the 2022 report, it was in 2021 and the results were not good. Discomfort was the number two issue reported by consumers, second only to insufficient battery life.

Even though people reported generally short continuous use times (the highest being 2.2 hours on average for watching video), 29% indicated their devices were uncomfortable in the ear. One can only guess at the figure were those same devices worn for the longer times envisioned for future use cases. Addressing this must be job one in 2023 if advanced applications are to be successful.
Comfort was the number two complaint for users of TWS hearables in the 2021 Qualcomm report, despite short usage times.
This is just one aspect of comfort. Another, which has received less attention thus far, is occlusion. Its perceived unimportance may be because up until the present time, TWS hearables have been used mainly for passive audio consumption. One can even get used to the sound of one’s own voice during a phone call or Internet meeting but beyond that, it becomes a real issue. In a social setting, occlusion can have two negative effects. The first is that hearing one’s own voice louder than normal tends to make one speak more softly; exactly what is not needed in a noisy environment such as a lively restaurant. The other is that body sounds such as chewing impede hearing. This can make it difficult to listen to a conversation while actively eating, defeating the purpose of any device meant to address situational hearing loss.

Traditionally, occlusion has been addressed by not sealing the ear canal. Audio glasses, bone conduction headsets, loose-fitting earbuds, and even hearables within earrings are all available. Not only do these solve the occlusion issue but they also provide long-wearing comfort combined with natural environmental awareness. They can be ideal within their target scenarios such as sport or conversation in more benign environments. However, they do not provide the noise reduction needed for comfort in loud environments, or for maximizing hearing enhancement in noise.
NOVA H1 audio earphones provide situational awareness and all-day comfort at the expense of noise reduction.
Advances in ANC promise to address this seemingly mutually exclusive need for less occlusion and isolation from noise. ANC can serve to address occlusion in two ways: Either by being powerful enough to cancel the increased noise entering the ear canal through a loose-fitting earbud, or by cancelling the occlusion sounds directly in a more sealed device. But this opens up another problem. The coming use cases such as hearing enhancement and voice assistant / audio AR on the go require the ability to hear environment sounds. Since ANC reduces environmental sounds, they must be artificially reintroduced in a natural way, and with appropriate levels, through external microphones.

One way to do this is through intelligent discrimination of outside sounds, allowing important sounds through while blocking noise. Increasingly, low power processors, some with on-board neural networks, are making this possible by providing sufficient resources for machine learning-based noise reduction algorithms. As reported by audioXpress one such solution was introduced from Swiss-based startup AVAtronics, who offers a “unique wideband ANC technique, which benefits from deep Neural Network techniques to adapt the ANC system to the environmental noise.” Other solutions aiming specifically at hearing enhancement offer ML speech from noise separation.
Greenwaves is just one of the companies developing ML-based hardware and software for intelligent ANC and speech from noise separation.
Surprisingly, few hearable companies have recognized that end-users want to vary the mix between ambient and streaming audio levels. Yet this is one of the most basic requirements for supporting all-day wear in multiple scenarios. In some cases one wants to listen to streaming audio in the background, for example when using audio navigation on the street. At other times one prefers the stream to dominate. Yet the ability to vary the mix is almost nonexistent in consumer hearables. Hearing aid manufacturers, finely tuned to providing a natural listening experience, have offered this feature for years. Consumer companies are only now catching up.

A related requirement is the need to provide proper directionality to the ambient sound. This can be a difficult problem, and more than a few brands have settled for ambient awareness without being able to discriminate precisely from what direction a sound is coming. This may be acceptable in certain use cases but for any device intended for long wear in public, natural ambient sound, including directional cues, is a must. Again, hearing aids have been far ahead in support of their value proposition of improving communication. Some hearable brands have also attended to this need; AirPods Pro is a notable example. Others will need to address this issue to be successful in future use cases.
The Creative Sensemore Air is one of the few consumer hearables that allow the mix between streaming and environmental audio to be varied.
Perhaps the hardest comfort issue of all is cultural. Though people are increasingly seen wearing hearable devices in public, this is typically in situations where interaction with others is infrequent such as while walking or commuting by train. There is still a significant discomfort to wearing hearables in group situations such as in a pub or restaurant. Hearing aid wearers have the advantage since one’s companions understand they are worn to enhance interaction, not to discourage it. But the classic behind-the-ear hearing aid form factor comes with its own stigma that is beyond the scope of this editorial. It can be said that perhaps the merging of the two technologies, especially with hearing aid companies introducing devices with TWS earbud form factors, will eventually break down the cultural barriers to public hearable use. But before any of that happens, hearable brands must holistically address comfort to be successful in the advanced use cases being developed for today.
About the Author
Prior to founding AuraFuturity, a marketing consulting company focusing on in-ear and hearing, Andrew Bellavia had experience in international sales, marketing, product management, and general management. Audio has been both an abiding interest and a market he served professionally in these roles. Andrew has been deeply embedded in the hearables space since the beginning and is recognized as a thought leader in the convergence of hearables and hearing health. He has also been a strong advocate for hearing care innovation and accessibility. Andrew’s home base at CES is the ALTI suite, Lido 3101B.
Automotive Audio Solutions
Evaluation of Automotive Audio Energy Efficiency
By Philipp Paul Klose
Automotive systems expert Philipp Paul Klose writes about the vital topic of Evaluation of Automotive Audio Energy Efficiency. This important article addresses an approach to measure energy consumption and efficiency of car audio systems as an essential method for an industry investing in ever more sophisticated technologies and applications. More importantly, the author proposes practical approaches, including standardized test procedures. This article was originally published in audioXpress, June 2022. Read the Full Article Now Available Here
Voice Coil Patent Review
Vertically and Horizontally Balanced Subwoofer
By James Croft
The patent reviewed here was granted to inventors Robert G. Johnston (Amprior Ontario, CA), and Sanford M.Gross (Owings Mills, MD), respectively the head of engineering of GoldenEar Technology, and its co-founder. The patent abstract details a speaker system, particularly useful as a subwoofer, which comprises an enclosure with one acoustic transducer facing to the right and one acoustic transducer facing to the left, which effectively cancels out transducer cone mass induced vibration within the enclosure. The enclosure also has one passive radiator facing up and one passive radiator facing down. The passive radiator facing down effectively couples acoustic energy at very low frequencies into the floor. As James Croft explains, this intricate patent is not completely new, but “the orientation of facing one of the passive radiators downward, adjacent to the floor to better couple the acoustic energy to the floor, appears to be a claimed point of novelty for many of the invention embodiments,” that should perform. Find out why. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, December 2016.  Read the Full Article Now Available Here
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